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19 junio 2024

Mar Paños: “In Aragón there is a great industrial fabric, a high level of entrepreneurs and workers”

Mar Paños (Oviedo, 1975) has held the General Directorate for Industrial Promotion and Innovation of the Government of Aragon since August 2023. With a degree in Economics from the University of Oviedo and an Executive MBA from the Instituto de Empresa, Paños was a councilor in the Madrid City Council of Alarcón until she joined the Government of Aragón. Mar Paños, who has worked as an analyst and project manager in various banking institutions, was general director of Economic and Industrial Promotion of the Community of Madrid, and councilor, between 2011 and 2021, in the City Council of Boadilla del Monte, with responsibilities in areas such as Finance, management of municipal assets and communication of the consistory. Her political career began in 2007, with her incorporation as an advisor in the Government of the Community of Madrid, developing her work in the Directorate General of Youth and in the cabinets of the Ministry of Family and Social Affairs and the Vice-Presidency, Ministry of Culture and Sports and Spokesperson of the Government.

What would be your balance of these first nine months at the head of the General Directorate of Industrial Promotion and Innovation of the Government of Aragon?

In Aragon there is a lot of innovative industry, but we need more visibility abroad, not only for the large groups, but also for those SMEs in Aragon, which are incorporating major innovations in process and product, in order to continue attracting more investment and more companies to the region. I am pleasantly surprised by the great industrial fabric of Aragon, by the high level of Aragonese entrepreneurs and workers, and by the way in which employers, trade unions and institutions, such as the Government of Aragon, work together to promote the industrial sector. There is a good climate.

You have held the position of General Director of Economic and Industrial Promotion of the Community of Madrid. How has the transition to the economic context of Aragon been? What are the main similarities and differences you have been able to observe?

The transition has been simple, in the sense that there are very technical industrial issues that I already knew. Regarding the differences, the weight in the industrial GDP in Aragon is much higher than in Madrid, where services are more dominant. Aragonese society is also more aware of the importance of industry for its economy. In addition, Aragon is a very large community in extension, with three provinces with different needs, it is not uniprovincial like Madrid, and each province has its own needs. I would highlight the high quality of the industrial fabric, and how Aragonese society has internalized its importance in the economy.

What are your objectives within the Directorate General for this term of office?

To help industry in the challenge of digital transformation and sustainability, which may be easier for large industry, but more complicated for SMEs. We want to help them in this challenge, both by adapting the measures we have and the existing lines of aid to the new needs they are having.

ARAGONESE SOCIETY IS AWARE OF THE IMPORTANCE OF INDUSTRY FOR ITS ECONOMY.

We also want to give more visibility to what is good in Aragon, and support the improvement of industrial areas, to attract investment. There are municipalities that do not have the financial capacity to make these investments, we will support them to improve and modernize their industrial zones to attract new companies. Above all, we will promote the innovation part so that our region goes from ‘moderate’ to ‘strong’ in the European classification.

On May 15 and 16 ‘The Wave’, an immersive exhibition on emerging technologies organized by the Government of Aragon, CEEIAragon and the IAF, was held at the Palacio de Congresos in Zaragoza. Which of the technologies shown there have the greatest potential for industrial companies in Aragon?

All technology is good for all sectors, but now we are immersed in the revolution that is Artificial Intelligence, and I think it is one of those that can best support the transformation and promotion of any sector. To be more efficient, more effective, and, above all, more competitive. All technology is necessary, but Artificial Intelligence and data analysis in the industry is transversal. It can be one of the great revulsives, both for a large company and for an SME.

What are the industrial sectors that would be interesting to develop in Aragon to consolidate its industrial weight?

A tender is being carried out to draft the future Industrial Plan of Aragon, in collaboration with Chambers of Commerce, Universities, clusters… We will have the opinion of all: companies, institutions, technological centers, etc. to draw up an industrial plan where we will see which sectors will lead the growth of the Aragonese economy to a higher level.

Mar Paños, general director of Industrial Promotion and Innovation of the Government of Aragon since August 2023, at the headquarters of the DGA. Photo: N. M.

We have to continue with the automotive industry, so that it continues to play an important role in the GDP, but adapted to the challenges ahead, betting on new energies and the use of Artificial Intelligence, because it will transform the industry. Companies like Amazon or Microsoft are betting on having their data centers here, they are driving companies, but we also have companies here like Hyberus, Inycom, Imascono or Bitbrain, with experience and know-how, which can collaborate with large companies and create an ecosystem for which we will have to bet.

Aragon is also a region with great opportunities in the field of renewable energies and green energies. What opportunities are there in this sector for the coming years?

In Aragon we are major producers of renewable energy. We have to ensure that not only energy is produced, but also that the renewable energy that Aragon has the capacity to generate due to its natural environment allows more industries to locate in the autonomous community. Because of this proximity to the source of energy generation. We have to try to get companies to come and consume that energy here, but providing value, with the advantage that it is a cheaper energy and that it is green energy, so they reduce their CO2 footprint.

And in the specific field of hydrogen as an energy vector?

Aragon is a pioneer with the Hydrogen Foundation, with the analysis of this energy source, and its importance as an industrial vector. It is interesting not only that we produce green hydrogen, encouraged by the European Union, but also that we attract companies, and that companies, as Calvera has done, specialize in producing machinery to use this hydrogen in industry. For example, Kalfrisa has presented the first hydrogen-powered crematorium furnace, which is a big step. That it is Aragonese companies that do it here, such as Kalfrisa, Calvera, Zoilo Ríos or Arpa.

THE ALLIANCE OF AUTOMOTIVE REGIONS IS A GOOD FORUM TO CONVEY THE SECTOR’S NEEDS TO THE EUROPEAN UNION.

Although Aragonese exports fell in March by 8.6% year-on-year due to the “Easter Week Effect”, February 2024 was the best month in the historical series for Aragonese exports, with 1,594 million euros, 11.5% more than a year ago, a figure that contrasts with the average fall of the Spanish average (3%). What are the plans of the Directorate General to promote exports, particularly of Aragonese industrial companies?

In this aspect we collaborate with Aragón Exterior (AREX). Each case of a company that we see that wants to internationalize, we put them in direct contact. We will also collaborate with AREX in some fairs, such as Feindef. If in the elaboration of the Industrial Plan of Aragon that I mentioned, we see any need related to internationalization, investment attraction or exports, we will talk with AREX to see what program can be implemented to solve those needs.

What is the weight of the industrial sector in these export data?

Right now it is 30%. We have here big companies from the automotive world and their suppliers, as well as innovative companies, which, by doing things differently, are giving a very specific added value to their customers. The rest of the world is seeing the good things that are being done here and is buying from us. We have to maintain that proportion or increase it, because that will mean that things are being done well and that the industries of other countries are valuing it. We must also encourage them to set up here because they have good suppliers; this is another aspect that we also have to work on.

The automotive industry is one of the most important sectors for the autonomous community of Aragon. Aragon has recently joined the Alliance of Automotive Regions (ARA), an alliance that includes an agreement for a transition to electric vehicles that seeks to ensure a cohesive evolution of all the regions involved. How will this agreement influence the autonomous community?

The alliance serves to share the needs of all the regions involved in the automotive sector. We are seeing how we are all committed to the changes that the automotive industry is facing, such as electrification, to make it more sustainable, so that there is less pollution derived from the automotive industry. This implies a transformation in processes. For example, the production of an electric car is not as labor-intensive as that of a conventional car; companies are adapting, retraining their workers to be able to relocate them elsewhere in the production chain. The alliance informs the European Union and the bodies that decide on these policies, the consequences of these policies. For example, we tell them whether it is necessary to implement aid to help retrain workers. These are questions that, thanks to the alliance, are going to be put on the table and will be able to be transferred to the European Union bodies that decide on aid, plans or implementation dates.

Mar Paños, general director of Industrial Promotion and Innovation of the Government of Aragon since August 2023, at the headquarters of the DGA. Photo: N. M.

In the alliance there are very different regions, at different stages of industrialization. I think it is a good forum to convey to the European Union’s decision-making bodies the needs of the sector. So that they adapt more to reality.

The agri-food industry is spearheading Aragon, with good news such as the investment announced by the Costa Group for the construction of a new agri-food logistics center that will generate 3,200 direct jobs and another 2,000 indirect jobs from the town of Villamayor in Zaragoza. What are the plans of the Directorate General for this sector?

The Aid Program for Industry and SMEs in Aragon (PAIP) is not closed to any sector within the industry, for the renewal of machinery or even for research or innovation projects. These aids already support the agro-industrial sector.

What does Asociación de Entidades del Sistema de la Seguridad Industrial de Aragón (AESSIA) mean for users and for specialized companies?

In 2017 we signed an agreement to set up the Association of Industrial Safety System Entities of Aragon. It started from the Government of Aragon, with the aim of improving industrial safety. It is something unknown and that seems to only affect industry. But, for example, industrial safety also affects the elevators of the communities of neighbors, not only those of the industries. Electrical installations, the same. The Government of Aragon collaborates through AESSIA with professional associations, control bodies, which are the ones that verify how the systems are, and the installers themselves. This whole system is created to improve industrial safety and to collaborate with the Government of Aragon in the registration of installations, review of installations, training of installers… In addition, this year we have made progress in a computer solution with AESSIA that allows data extraction from all the installations we have, and which provides reports that help us to know where we have to focus on industrial safety.

What role does the collaboration of the Government of Aragon with economic and institutional agents related to technology and innovation, such as UNIZAR, clusters, technology centers and research institutes, play in the development of the region?

It is very important. First, to know their needs, and when you have to elaborate measures, programs or lines of aid, you can go to the real needs. And second, because the Government of Aragon participates in many European innovation partnerships and networks, in which the participation of entities such as the University, CIRCE, AITIIP, CITA, ITA… all the technology centers we have, clusters, Chamber of Commerce… is fundamental. Public-private collaboration is essential, because otherwise you would stop listening to a part of society and you would stop making necessary policies. In addition, to compete internationally, if you go it alone, you won’t make it, you have to go hand in hand with companies. That is why in the Industrial Plan we are going to give a voice to everyone, from the chambers to the clusters.

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